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Melissa Fleis Swaps San Francisco for Los Angeles in a Bid to Grow Business

It's a common refrain in San Francisco: artists are moving away from the city because the cost of living is too high. One former San Francisco designer explains why she left the Bay for LA

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After six years in San Franciso, designer Melissa Fleis has traded the Mission for LA's Studio City because —as you may have noticed— the rent in San Francisco is too damn high. But that's not the only reason.

"I had spent six years in San Francisco, and I love the city so much, but I felt that the move to LA would be the best way to expand the business," Melissa tells Racked.

As much as the San Francisco fashion scene appears to be growing, Los Angeles remains the more practical choice for West Coast designers. LA has a bustling apparel manufacturing industry, and the higher concentration of labels in the city means greater access to fashion media. There's also the matter of work space.

"I have my own studio space now, which is a big change for me instead of just working out of my living room," Melissa explains. That type of space simply wasn't an option in the Bay Area's bonkers real estate market. When Melissa tried finding a studio in the Mission two years ago, she was stunned by what she would have to pay for a windowless spot near her home. "What they were charging for it was completely impractical. I'm not going to leave my Victorian apartment that's so well lit for something that I can't even afford."

The bigger problem, however, is that Melissa is not the only artist facing that problem. She says that lots of her fellow artist friends are fleeing San Francisco for LA. Still, she misses the Bay Area and promises that she'll be back for projects and store visits. "I know my next show will be in Austin, Texas in April, but I definitely want to come back and do trunk shows. And if there is the opportunity for a fashion show, I'm more than willing to come back. I love the Bay Area tremendously."